How to Create Your Own Terrarium

A terrarium is a little indoor garden that is easy to create and budget-friendly. It’s a great decor piece that adds a touch of greenery to your home or workspace. Even if you’re missing a green thumb (or two), creating a terrarium is a great way to get acquainted with plants, as the ones we’ll be using are low maintenance and easy to take care of.

This tutorial will take approximately 30 minutes to do, and all materials cost $20-$30.

What You’ll Need

You’ll find most of what you need at your local garden centre or home improvement stores with garden centres (e.g., Home Depot, Rona, Canadian Tire, etc.).

Some materials such as activated charcoal and decorative rocks can be found in the aquarium section of your local pet store if you can’t find it at your garden centre.

  • A glass container (1 litre or larger) – From tall glass vases to geometric vessels, there are lots of options to choose from. Use a container that is at least 1L in volume, keeping in mind the size of your plants. A container with a wide mouth is easiest to work with. If working with a narrower mouth, make sure you can fit your largest plant through the opening of the container.
  • 3 succulents (2 inches or smaller) – Succulents require little attention and are easy to take care of. We recommend choosing 3 succulents that vary in size or colour to add some dimension to your terrarium. The size of your container will determine the size and number of plants.
  • Activated charcoal (1-3 tablespoons)– This helps prevent bacterial overgrowth in your terrarium. If your local garden centre doesn’t have charcoal, check the aquarium section of your local pet store.
  • Perlite (1/2 cup) – Perlite is a volcanic rock that is porous and provides drainage and aeration in your terrarium. If you can’t find perlite, you can use small stones instead.
  • Sphagnum moss (1/2 cup)– This helps absorb any excess water and also adds a decorative layer to your terrarium.
  • Succulent potting soil (1-3 cups) – As succulents require less water, succulent or cactus potting soil allows any excess water to drain through, preventing your plant’s roots from rotting.
  • Decorative rocks/gravel (1/2 cup) – If your local garden centre is out of decorative rocks, check the aquarium section of your local pet store.
  • 1-2 small decorations – Decorations are optional, but you can use anything from a pinecone to small trinkets you have lying at home.

The Base

  • Using a spoon, add a thin layer of activated charcoal, just enough to cover the bottom of your terrarium. The charcoal helps filter water that reaches the bottom, preventing any mold from growing.
  • Add a layer of perlite that’s 1.5 inches thick. This layer provides drainage for your terrarium, allowing a place for any excess water to sit and eventually evaporate.
  • Put in a layer of sphagnum moss. You can play around with the thickness depending on how you want your layers to look like.
  • Add a layer of potting soil that is 2 inches thick. This layer gives your plant’s roots some room to grow over time.

Place Your Plants

  • It’s easiest to pot your plants if they are sitting in dry soil. If your plants are in plastic nursery containers, simply hold the base of your plant and use your other hand to squeeze the container until your plant pops out. Then, gently press the soil around its roots to get rid of any excess soil. Lay the plant on its side while you take your other plants of their pots.
  • Hold your largest plant by its stem and move it around in your container until you’ve found a good spot to plant it. Once you’re happy with the placement, continue holding the plant while you add some potting to cover its roots.
  • If you needed, you can poke a skewer into the soil to help your plant stay up straight while you arrange the other plants.
  • Place your next plant into the container. Check to make sure this plant is level with the other one. You can push some soil out of the way to make room for the plant, and then cover the roots with soil.
  • Once all your plants are in place, gently tamp the soil around the base. Add more soil if needed. Test to see if your plant can stand up straight on its own. If not, you pull it out just enough to loosen the soil, readjust it, and add more soil before tamping it out again.

Decorate!

  • Sprinkle the gravel over the soil. If any of it lands on your plants, you can use your finger to gently brush it off.
  • Arrange your small decorations around your terrarium.
  • If you have have soil on the sides of your terrarium, use a paintbrush to brush them off the sides of the glass. Make sure the soil is dry or else it will smear.
  • If the soil of your terrarium is dry and crumbly, water the soil slowly and evenly, just until the soil is saturated and dark.

Care and Maintenance

Succulents are easy to take care of and don’t require a lot of attention. Your terrarium will thrive in a well-lit, bright environment whether that’s natural sunlight or artificial lighting. Avoid putting your terrarium in direct sunlight (like on a windowsill) as your plants can get sunburnt.

You only need to water your terrarium once the soil is completely dry. You’ll know if you see the soil has pulled away from the sides of the glass. You can also poke a skewer into the soil and if it comes out clean, it’s time for watering.

When you water your terrarium, water slowly and evenly across the soil, stopping once the soil is saturated and dark.

With proper care and maintenance, your terrarium can last 1-2 years or more!